If such a gifted and renowned baseball writer such as Dave Cameron can predict the Rockies to win the Western Division based on just a few weeks of baseball games, then a flawed blogger can predict the Dodgers to win this Division after one third of the season has been played, even while sitting in fourth place.
I know I'm not climbing out on the kind of limb that Dave Cameron climbed out on. It took an arrogance rarely seen other than in ESPN writers to call a division in April.
For the educated baseball fan there is little evidence the Dodgers can pull off this feat. The Dodgers are in fourth place, closer to last place then first place, have never been able to string together more then three wins in a row, and are embarking on a road trip that will see them take on contenders not pretenders on every stop.
No matter, we got this.
Everything that could go wrong for the Dodgers may have already happened. The Dodger setbacks were short term, the loss of Buster Posey and Jorge De La Rosa are long term. This is a non stat zone analysis, completely subjective, no WAR, no OPS+, no ERA+, no xFIP, just simple old fashioned bullshit.
The Dodgers entered the 2011 with some givens and some questions.
- One of the best rotations from 1 - 5 in baseball
- A deep and gifted bullpen
- A strong hitting right fielder
- Which Matt Kemp would show up? The good one or the GREAT ONE
- Would Juan Uribe help or hinder the offense?
- Rafy Furcal would get hurt, Jamey Carroll would replace him with no one the wiser.
- Would anyone step up in left field or would the platoon be the answer?
- An enigma at 1st base
- No money for reinforcements
- A distracting ownership situation
It is obvious what has put the kibosh on the Dodger season.
- The deep and gifted bullpen lost every single member of the original bullpen that they were counting on other than Matt Guerrier. Broxton lost to stubbornness, Kuo to mental anxiety, Padilla twice to arm trouble, Jansen to arm trouble, Hawksworth to groin trouble.
- James Loney decided that his ineptitude in the 2nd half last year could not only be replicated but surpassed.
- Casey Blake got an infection, not the normal injury that shelf's a major leaguer for a month. The domino effect of losing three infielders at the same time (Blake, Uribe, and Furcal) meant the Dodger infield resembled the Good (Carroll), the Bad (DeJesus), and the Ugly (Aaron Miles).
- Hector Gimenez counted on to be the lightening rod of triumph was shelf-ed and may never be seen again
- Juan Uribe proved that he can look as awful at the plate for stretches of time as anyone who has ever donned the blue.
- Early on left field was even more of a problem than even the most pessimistic fan would have expected.
Within all these troubles, a sliver of hope emerged from each one of them, hope that one can easily grasp onto if they look hard enough.
- The original bullpen may have blown a gasket, but the kiddie playpen did just fine in their absence. Scott Elbert, Javy Guerra, and Rubby De La Rosa, stepped into the void and performed well enough that as the broken brigade start to filter back one can feel confident the Dodgers have some arms for the long summer battle for supremacy.
- James Loney came off his putrid April to put up a decent May. It was not great, it was however productive, and that is all we ask of James Loney. Don't create a maelstrom that sucks everyone down with you, stay afloat, catch the occasional wave, paddle back out, and for Gods Sake stop playing against LHP.
- Casey Blake is back, he should be ready to go for the rest of the season, getting the occasional day off someone his age needs to stay energized.
- As bad as Juan Uribe looked at times, his defense was solid and sometimes spectacular at 3rd. When he was locked in for that one week, he was terrific. It seems obvious that when he comes back he will have more stretches of terrificness then suckiness because he already had so many of the suckiness weeks. Why else would Ned have given him all that money? When Uribe comes back, Casey Blake can play 1st base against LHP, letting Jamey Carroll play some second. When the infield is healthy it is one flexible unit that need never let Aaron Miles get off the bench.
- Left field might be in good hands. Maybe not Apartment 4E good hands but still Jerry Sands looks like he will be an average left fielder. He is certainly no Billy Ashly, maybe more a right handed Todd Hollandsworth type. If Gibbons and Thames had not been hurt, we might not have seen the promise of Sands, so hopefully good came from the bad. At the least he appears to be a lefty masher, the real question is will he hit right handers enough to keep Gibbons on the bench. This writer thinks he can.
Some of the good things Dodger fans counted on have happened. The Dodgers have a rotation that has missed only one start, a rotation that may boast the best pitcher in the NL West, a rotation that may boast the best number five starter in the Division, a rotation that has the best Japanese pitcher in the country, a rotation that has the best over 30 lefty in the Division, a rotation that has a man with emotional issues that only certain writers know about who may overcome those demons of a shy personality to take his game to a level only his fans can dream of. A rotation dreams are made of. Neds dreams. Our dreams. Dodger dreams
While the rotation is just about all you need to call the Division the Dodgers have more. A right fielder who has yet to hit the hot streak he is famous for, he still has 25 home runs to hit this year, the center fielder who would appear to be capable of making a claim for the MVP. A one / two punch the envy of baseball. Sure they don't have 10 year, gazillion dollar contracts, they don't inspire the press unless they are part of trade talks, but by the end of this season will there be any doubt that the CF/RF combination of Matt / Andre was the best the Ravine has ever had paired together?
No one has a Jamey Carroll. The Diamondbacks may think they have one in Bloomquist, but they don't. The Giants thought they had one in DeRosa but not surprisingly he ended up with a limp wrist in San Francisco. Our Jamey plays second, SS, or 3rd with aplomb, while slapping singles wherever he can, and doing whatever he can to help the team be the best they can be.
By Sept the Ravine will be full again as the Dodgers mount their victorious comeback, no longer will we hear Vinny say 36,000 in attendance with a smirk in his voice as he looks upon the empty seats. Instead he will again revel in the roar of a sold out crowd as pennant fever grips this town. Gang bangers will return and be high fiving the crowd as they are escorted away, beach balls will fly, peanuts will be thrown, history will be made.
Be there when it happens, don't miss the chance to tell the kids, you were there when the Elevens made their mad dash to glory. These things only happen once, and once can last 25 years.